It’s the day before the NHL trade freeze begins. Check out the latest on Ryan Johansen, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Bernier, Tobia Enstrom and Zack Kassian.
Could the Jackets ship out Ryan Johansen?
TSN: Noting Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen was benched and a healthy scratch in recent games, Darren Dreger believes Johansen’s play and attitude contributed to his recent punishment from head coach John Tortorella. This will elevate speculation over his future with the Jackets. Dreger claims the Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks are now being scouted. Pierre LeBrun doubts the Jackets try to move Johansen now when his trade value is at an all-time low. However, he claims a number of teams reached out to the Jackets following word Johansen would be a healthy scratch.
Bob McKenzie (via Today’s Slapshot) said he wouldn’t surprise him if the Blue Jackets trade Johansen, but while teams are doing due diligence in following this story, they also wonder if there’s issues with the center’s work ethic or consistency.
SI.COM: Allan Muir also weighed in, noting there’s been speculation for weeks Johansen and the Jackets management have been at odds and the latter could try to cut ties with him. While trading Johansen could set back the Jackets rebuilding program, Muir feels he has to be accountable to his coach, teammate and himself.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Aaron Portzline reports of speculation that Johansen is being dangled and GM Jarmo Kekalainen is listening to offers, but the center insists he doesn’t want to be dealt and dismisses the notion he’s butting heads with Tortorella.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johansen does have a contentious history with the Jackets front office, from his underachieving effort during his sophomore season to a contract dispute last year. There’s also talk that the Jackets have concerns over the price of re-signing him when he’s a restricted free agent in 2017. For his part, Johansen is publicly accepting being scratched, saying it’s his fault.
While there’s undoubtedly interest in the 23-year-old center, Kekalainen must tread carefully here. If Johansen’s performance improves, so will his trade value, but that could also improve his value to the Jackets. If Kekalainen trades him and doesn’t get a solid return, it could spell the end of his management career, especially if Johansen goes on to shine elsewhere. This situation will be worth following leading up to the Feb. 29 trade deadline. If the Jackets commit to moving Johansen, however, I think the best time to do so is in late-June, when there’s more teams willing to make deals.
More “Bernier to Flames” speculation.
SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston cites Calgary Flames insider Eric Francis claiming the Flames have discussed taking on the contract of struggling Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier. “They need a goaltender next year. Pretty much everyone in the organization is either hurt or their contract ends this year.” Francis claims the Flames are considering every possibility for a goalie, citing Bernier’s potential upside. The Flames current goalie tandem of Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo have the league’s worst combined goals-against average and are UFAs at season’s end.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I noted yesterday, at least Ramo’s winning some games for the Flames this month. Indeed, in his last 10 starts, Ramo is 7-2-1, including five straight wins.As a result, as of this morning, the Flames are holding a playoff berth in the Western Conference. If they want Bernier, perhaps it’s wise to wait and see how things play out with him, as well as with Ramo. As one of my readers reminded me yesterday, Flames president Brian Burke has a self-imposed holiday trade freeze that begins a week before the league’s, so if he and GM Brad Treliving are interested in Bernier, they’ll have to wait until after Dec. 27.
Updates on Kopitar, Enstrom and Kassian.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Los Angeles Kings could announce the re-signing of center Anze Kopitar in January, speculating it’ll be an eight-year deal worth $9.75 million per season. Bob McKenzie reports there could be a couple of teams with interest in recently demoted Montreal Canadiens forward Zack Kassian, suggesting a club might be interested in swapping a salaried player for him.
Darren Dreger (via Today’s Slapshot) claims the Pittsburgh Penguins “kicked the tires” on Winnipeg Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom before acquiring Trevor Daley from the Chicago Blackhawks. He claimed Enstrom’s salary wasn’t a fit there.